Cleaning, as Discovery Channel's Dirty Jobs host Mike Rowe will tell you, is well, a dirty job - which is why few, if any, enjoy cleaning. But as any new home owner would come to know first hand, cleaning is part and parcel of home ownership.
Traditionally, to clean your greasy kitchen floor and walls, you have an option of using either harsh chemical cleaners or more fashionable lately, enzyme-based cleaners. The same goes for cleaning moldy bathroom tiles and fixtures. The problem with using the former is, it's toxic and basically inhaling it, especially in a confined space, like in a bathroom without any form of active ventilation only acts to concentrate the fumes into your lungs.
Benefit of steam cleaning: Steamed mold anyone?
While enzyme-based cleaners offer a safer alternative and works great on water-soluble grime, they don't melt away thick greasy grime as fast as steam - This is where stream cleaners like the Karcher SC4 comes in, apart from disinfecting, steam cleaning also has the fringe benefits of steam-ironing your clothes or upholstery (using an optional accessory) and even removing malodours - including smoke odours from the roof lining of a smoker's car.
The SC4 has two tanks - a main 0.5-litre boiler tank and an external 0.8-litre, detachable tank up for ease of refilling. The detachable tank also means it's possible to continuously refill the SC4's boiler without having to wait for water to come to a rolling boil. The SC4 will make an audible beep with a flashing LED button to indicate when the external tank is low.
Unlike their pressure washers, the Karcher steam cleaner range differs very little in their output pressure of around 3 to 4 bar (that's 43 to 58psi) - steam after all is steam. The main differentiator is the water capacity, power and features - the water capacity determines how long you can clean before having to stop, refill and wait for the water to come up to a boil while the power output determines how fast the unit takes to boil the water.
Filled with regular tap water, the SC4 took just under 5 minutes to start steaming. However, we noticed the steam only starts getting more consistent presumably when the SC4 comes to a 'rolling' boil - at which point, the non-detachable hose will also get uncomfortably hot to the touch.
Getting down to the actual chore:
The thing to bear in mind with steam cleaners is that just directing the steam output at a mold-coated or greasy kitchen tiled wall does nothing to clean the surface - you might be able to get loose bits of mold to fall off or grease spots to melt, but the 3-4 bar of steam output isn't strong enough to physically shift grime away and all you're doing is just cooking the mold colony.
The ideal approach to steam cleaning is to pair the SC4 with either the detailing round brush, the hand nozzle with a terry cloth for larger or greasy surfaces or the floor cleaning kit with a microfibre cloth. The round brush is the most versatile as it gets allows you to scrub between the tiles along the grout lines, where molds love to grow, as well the tiles and in and around bathroom fixtures. While the terry cloth absorbs the grease and all you do is throw it in the washing machine to wash the grease out - ready for the next cleaning.
The steam output, which can be set to low or high output from the handle, now acts to both disinfect, loosen and also lubricates the surface while the brush shifts the grime - compared to brute-force scrubbing, the steam makes the entire task a whole lot faster and cleaner.
If you're only using the brush attachment, you would still need to rinse the surface or wipe it down to get rid of the loose grime (Karcher markets a vacuum steamer in the form of the SV7 but that's a review for another day).
For bathrooms, we find using the round brush directly without any extensions produces the best results as the round brush concentrates the SC4's steam directly to the spot its cleaning. Once you've done the initial clean, you can simply do quick weekly follow-ups by using the hand nozzle with a terry cloth.
We also find that during the next two weeks after cleaning with the SC4 steam cleaner, molds took a longer time to re-populate compared to just normal scrubbing with some bathroom cleaners - a testament to the disinfecting powers of steam.
Some minor niggling and what to expect:
While the round brush attachment is great at cleaning just about anything, the size makes it similar to trying to clean your bathroom with a toothbrush. Karcher however does have a bigger brush head aptly named the 'Big Round Brush' as an optional accessory.
A bigger brush should significantly speed up cleaning over the small round brush - we wished Karcher would include both the big and small round brushes in the package. Despite its flexibility, the small round brush doesn't get in-between areas like the underside of toilet rim - you can however still use the SC4 with any of your existing brushes.
Optional different coloured bristles:
Additionally, Karcher also makes the small round brush in different bristle materials - one with a brass bristles as well as both maroon and black. The maroon and black colour is to differentiate between kitchen and toilet (you decide which, just don't mix the two up). We've been told the brass bristles works a treat on degreasing engine bay as well as components. Personally, we think it's a bit harsh on soft aluminium engine cases.
Karcher also included the updated Comfort Plus floor nozzle that uses a specially-designed microfibre floor cleaning cloth with the SC4. The older model uses a clip-style head, can be used with just about any similar-sized microfibre cloth.
The microfibre cleaning cloth themselves are quite sturdy but it doesn't take long to get the microfibre cloth soiled especially during heavy cleaning jobs - as it really grabs onto the dirt and grime.
Ergonomic-wise, we also find that depressing the trigger handle when applying pressure to scrub also tends put pressure against the side of your thumb - this might not affect everyone, but the trigger remains a non-locking design is simply for safety.
While the hand nozzle has bristles all around its edges, it is only effective when paired with the included terry cloth - for this reason, you might want to purchase an additional terry cloth set for the bathroom and kitchen.
Compared to chemical cleaners that leave toxic residue, steam cleaning is by far the fastest, safest and most effective method of cleaning your household - making it clean and safe from germ-related infections for you and your family including young children that play on the floor. As an added bonus point, it's also environment-friendly!
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